Before I became a mom, I swore I would never raise picky eaters. I vowed that I wouldn't cater to bland diets and my kids would definitely eat their vegetables. Oh, how times have changed. Now that I'm actually a mom, I'm way more concerned with keeping my kids alive than ensuring balanced nutrition every step of the way. I have come to a point where I can say with some confidence that I don’t think their diet will have a lifelong effect on whether or not they turn out OK. I don’t make my kids eat their veggies, and I think they’re going to turn out just fine. In fact, they might turn out all the better for it, because force-feeding broccoli isn't exactly a winning method for developing a healthy attitude toward food.
Getting my kids to eat at all has always been difficult. My 3-year-old daughter in particular refuses a wide variety of foods, including pretty much all vegetables. Sometimes she’ll munch on a carrot, because she like the texture, but she spits it out before any nutrients decide to sneak into her body.
I've tried talking to my daughter's pediatrician about the fact that she refuses vegetables. He simply tells me to keep offering her different foods, and not to worry too much. She's still growing, still healthy. But even with his expert advice, I sometimes find it hard not to worry. There is so much pressure to raise healthy kids with good attitudes toward food, and I feel like I'm raising the world's pickiest eater.
I try to offer my daughter vegetables at least once a day, and it is always a point of contention. I beg her to just try a little, tiny, baby bite of veggies, but she never, ever budges. One time, she almost mindlessly ate a bite of broccoli while watching TV, but don't you worry, she promptly rejected it the moment it touched her lips.
It is much easier to list the things my daughter will eat, rather than the never-ending list of things she absolutely will not eat. She eats almost any sugar based food, such as candy, ice cream, or doughnuts. She will eat oatmeal. She will eat Ramen noodles. She will eat fruit. She will eat bread of all types unless whole grains are present. She will eat eggs on occasion. She will eat Costco pizza, but only at my mother’s house. End of list.
The dinner table was a constant battleground, and eventually I just got tired of fighting.
This makes it incredibly hard to cook family meals, as I'd always envisioned. I'd always dreamed of being that Pinterest mom who made homemade chicken nuggets, and I knew that if my kids ate elaborate meals, I would make them healthy, home-cooked, delicious food all the time. Food is my love language, but I don’t get a whole lot of love in return. More often than not, my daughter will sit at the table and whine about how she doesn’t want to eat anything I have prepared. It’s simply not worth the effort when my labor of love gets thrown back in my face (or in my kitchen sink).
I've tried every trick in the book to get my daughter to eat vegetables. I tried involving her in the planning and cooking process. I tried sneaking vegetables into macaroni and cheese. None of the tips and tricks to get kids to eat vegetables seemed to work on her.
For a long time, I fought my daughter over her poor eating. I didn't understand how my older and younger child were so apt to try new foods, and she wasn't. I would force her to sit through miserable meals where I moved swiftly from bribery to threats, trying to get her to simply take a single bite of vegetables. I promised we’d go out for ice cream if she took just one bite. I threatened to send her to bed early if she didn’t. I dreaded meals, and I suspect she did as well. The dinner table was a constant battleground, and eventually I just got tired of fighting.
Why was I so adamant about her eating tiny bites of vegetables in exchange for rewards or punishment? Why couldn’t I just feed her oatmeal twice a day and make meals for the rest of the family and leave her alone?
She was still growing and thriving, despite her terribly limited diet, so why was I so adamant about her eating tiny bites of vegetables in exchange for rewards or punishment? Why couldn’t I just feed her oatmeal twice a day and make meals for the rest of the family and leave her alone?
The answer was: I could. Her doctor had told me not to worry. My husband had told me not to worry. My mom had told me not to worry, that this was common and that she'd start eating vegetables on her own accord. So I listened to their advice and I stopped worrying. It wasn't worth the stress.
Recently, I’ve been trying to quit the food fights over vegetables, trusting that she’ll come around eventually. I’m making my daughter oatmeal, sometimes for breakfast and dinner, and letting her eat in peace. Not only am I happier, but she’s eating better, too. In fact, the other night, when she thought I wasn’t looking, she took a small bite of cauliflower her brother handed her to try. She didn’t like it — in fact, she barely even tasted it — but it was still something. I took it as a sign that she will indeed turn out just fine, as long as I stop fighting with her over veggies and simply let her eat.